The Coffee Maker (#364)

I did not grow up drinking caffeine. At my dad’s house, there was only hot tea (usually Bigelows, usually herbal) on cold game nights. At my mom’s house, there was coffee every morning, made on the stove in a cheap, old fashioned percolator. That coffee smelled so good that I would occasionally try a sip, only to gag at the bitterness.

Back then, when the world was so new and all, we didn’t have fancy Peppermint Mocha Crème Brulé Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccinos to make coffee palatable. Since I was an insomniac, I never needed coffee to stay awake. Tea remained my drink of choice (except when laced with lead in misogynistic ceremonies).

Andy, my Chinese American husband, grew up with tea during dim sum, hot tea with meals (even in Hawaii!), and the devil’s brew known as foo chai when he was sick. The he went to Starbucks—I mean, Seattle for a semester of college.

By the time I met Andy, he brewed a ten cup carafe of very strong coffee every morning. He also had his own coffee and coffee maker at work.

In grad school, I worked in a restaurant. While staff wasn’t allowed to have food, we were allowed as much coffee we wanted—including milk and cream. So I’d have a tablespoon of coffee and a mug of cream while working (don’t judge, in my hungry family, we NEVER turned down free food).

By the time Andy and I moved in together, I could manage a mug of Andy’s coffee in the morning…as long half of the mug was half-and-half.

Then we had Baby D and I was up at 4:30 AM. Sometimes I needed a second serving of coffee.

Eventually, Andy started making my coffee milk and leaving it on the counter. I thought it was very nice of him, though I was constantly reminding him to use a coffee mug, rather than my favorite teacups. My friend M sent me a hand-thrown mug with a fall leaf, but Andy rarely used it. Instead, he’d pick the smallest mug available.

I finally caught on: “Hey! You’re hoarding the coffee! That’s why you tried to use my little teacups and you won’t use the big mug!”

“What? No, of course not, honey. I know you like the little mugs and you do have a little mouth and you don’t want to spill,” he protested. UNCONVINCINGLY.

“But it’s fall and I want the coffee in my big fall mug that has the rim I like!”

“But when I give you that mug you never drink it all!”

“That’s because I can’t before Baby D needs something, or the cat throws up, or a dog has to go out, or there’s a racoon in the yard, or whatever! And then my coffee gets cold and it gets a skin.”

“If you just drank coffee black, you could reheat it, like me.”

“Oh my God, I get, at most, 2 cups of coffee. That means you get eight. HOW IS EIGHT CUPS OF COFFEE NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU?!”

Andy’s coffee from Costco

Andy had no response…besides finding the darkest, bitterest roast on the planet and grinding more of it to make his coffee even stronger.

 Since we’ve been married, he’s gone through four coffee makers and five grinders. The knob of the last grinder fell off, but since the grinder still worked, my frugal husband used pliers in place of the knob.

For our anniversary this year, I printed out reviews of the best combination grinder/coffee makers—all with 12 cup coffee carafes— and put them in his birthday card. I told Andy to treat himself to his favorite. It sounds lazy, but while I’m fairly ignorant about making coffee, I’m not stupid enough to pick out coffee equipment for a coffee snob.  Also, our kitchen was being repaired after water damage and there was nowhere to actually put a coffee maker. (Andy was living on Starbucks.)

When the kitchen was finished, Andy ignored all my reviews and bought himself a new grinder and an expensive De’Longhi coffeemaker.

“It looks fancy,” I told him. “But the carafe only holds ten cups! You sure you didn’t want a twelve cup one?”

“The De’longhi only comes with a ten cup carafe. But look! It has a milk steamer. You can have cappuccinos or lattes.”

“But I wanted YOU to have the coffee maker that that would give you all the coffee you wanted. It’s not supposed to be about me!”

Andy shrugged. “It’ll be fine.”

My cappuccino with one of Andy’s mochi doughnuts.

The next morning, after a lot of noise in the kitchen, Andy presented me with a frothy cappuccino—in my big fall mug. It was deliciously mellow, not at all like his usual bitter brew.

“This is amazing! Thank you, honey.” Andy beamed, but I still felt badly that he’d gotten me a gift with his gift. “Listen, you don’t have to do this all the time. Just leave the instruction manual out and I’ll figure out how to use the frother and steam my own milk.”

Andy did not leave out the manual. When I called him at work, he said it was in his file cabinet. It was not.

I searched up videos and instructions online. The next time I got up before Andy, I frothed up my milk and added it to some coffee from the carafe.

It was bitter as all hell. Stronger than the coffee from our previous coffee maker for sure. I was still making faces when Andy hurried into the kitchen.

“This is bad, honey,” I told him. “I dunno why it doesn’t taste like your cappuccinos.”

“You used MY coffee?!” Andy looked both outraged…and guilty.

My espresso bag.

“What do you—what coffee have you been making ME?” I whipped open a cabinet. “Is there a can of instant or General Foods International Coffees in here?”

“I would never! This new coffee maker also does espressos, so I make you your own shot for your cappuccino.” He pulled down a brown bag and showed it to me.

“You mean you’ve been secretly making me different coffee? So you can have all ten cups to yourself? While I was feeling bad you got a smaller carafe in order to get the machine with the milk frother?!”

“But don’t you like the cappuccinos better than my coffee?”

“That is…not the point!” I stalked off to walk the dog. And also to complain to my Lawyer Sister about Andy’s duplicitous coffee-switching.

After she quit laughing, Lawyer Sis said, “I don’t know why you’re complaining. Your husband makes you your own special cappuccino every morning. Take the win.”

“Yes, but if I get up first, then I have to wait for my coffee.”

“Oh, boo-hoo. Other people have to pay money and drive to Starbucks for cappuccinos. My husband doesn’t even know how to make coffee. He drinks Dr. Pepper. FOR BREAKFAST.”

I shuddered and conceded.

Andy promised to show me how to make my own shot of espresso. I have yet to take him up on his offer.

Perhaps because I am also enjoying my new coffee maker.

Cappuccino holiday style!

Man Without a Plan (#363)

My husband is good at living in the moment.

Planning? Not really his forte. Maybe this is because he lacks an internal monologue.

Sometimes I think it must be very restful in his head. He falls asleep much faster than I do. He plays on his phone in the morning and drinks coffee.

Meanwhile, I’m at my desk, writing out the day’s “To-Do” list amidst constant mental chatter:

If I can get through emails in ten minutes then the dog and I should start our walk where I can call Lawyer Sis and ask how to handle the insurance adjuster from hell and we will be back in time for me to do yoga so my back doesn’t go out again while doing laser pointer with the cat so I can wear cat out before locking cat up when the water mitigation guys arrive which will hopefully mean no more ripped curtains in the bedroom and I’ll make the kid breakfast in a to-go container because we will have no sink to do dishes and damn it, Andy still hasn’t talked to his family about Thanksgiving which I asked him about weeks ago maybe I should text his cousins myself—

As you can tell from the above monologue, it’s mostly sometimes irritating for a planner to live with a non-planner.

Andy drives the same way to the same destination every time he goes. He listens to podcasts.

I drive in silence, lest the noise interfere with the shifting efficiency flowchart in my head: If the light is red at Sepulveda, make a right and take it all the way to Maple before turning, but if it’s green, turn at Carson, unless that light is also green in which case turn at Torrance Blvd…

Andy does do a vague mental outline on projects that are important to him, like stealth building his garage gym. Or stealth landscaping half of the backyard into a vegetable garden. But the execution invariably reveals the limitations of said outline—as evinced by either a week-long trickle of supplemental Amazon boxes and/ or multiple trips to Home Depot.

Seems like, I dunno, creating a detailed list in advance might make the process more efficient?

Yet Andy doesn’t seem to mind. He sees multiple trips to Home Depot as part of the process.

I see wasted time.

The efficiency taskmaster in my head undoubtedly honed her skills when I worked as an executive assistant in Hollywood. She went into overdrive when I became a mom. Baby D hardly napped and had a ton of energy. Every day was a campaign to get household tasks done, pets cared for, a shower, and carve out scraps of personal time—all while teaching/parenting/feeding/playing with a tiny, irrational tyrant. If I got a half-hour to read or completed a workout, it was a victory.

Once Baby D went to school, I gained enough time to write again…only to lose chunks of it as Dalton’s soccer coach, school volunteer, etc. I had an agent—a white man, of course—who moaned about how long it was taking me to write the second book in a series and then asked, “What do you do all day?!”

Pretty sure I spent that day plotting his murder.

Anyway, while it’s sometimes frustrating to be a planner in the passenger seat, it’s probably not much fun to be the driver when your wife constantly offers alternate routes on long drives back from soccer games.

Or at least that’s what I figured when Andy told me to take the wheel one weekend. After checking both Google and Apple and getting us on the fastest route home, I asked, “Was I making too many suggestions?”

“You don’t make suggestions. You give orders,” Andy answered absently, scrolling through his phone. “Nah, I just wanted to check on my pension.”

Since I ‘d finally gotten into the carpool lane and we were cruising along at 70 mph, I did not slam on the brake and scream, “You have a pension?! Since WHEN?!”

I merely said, “So. You have a pension.”

Dalton called out from the backseat, “What’s a pension? Why is mom yelling?”

“It’s getting a regular paycheck after you retire,” I called back. “Usually only available to teachers, cops, and other government workers. Which your father isn’t. Which is why I never thought to ask him if he had one.”

Andy, in an Oscar-worthy performance, said, “I’m sure I told you I had a pension.”

“No, honey. You did not. How on earth do you have a pension?!”

“I got hired just before the current company merged with the old company,” Andy explained. “The current company doesn’t offer pensions, but the old company did. It was one of the reasons I took the job—a pension after 30 years. The new company had to promise to honor the old pension plan before the merger could go through.”

“So…you have a pension. All this time, and I never knew.”

I bit back all the comments I could have made about how much I’d stressed, for more than a decade, about not contributing to my 401k anymore, or how we would manage retirement.

Because, all along, the man actually had a plan.

Or at least an outline.

The Fire Is Out (#350)

Once upon a time, I was good at dating. Like, fire emoji good. If I didn’t have a serious boyfriend, I was usually dating several different guys (and very open about that fact, don’t be thinking I was a serial cheater or something). I was always on the lookout for potentially new, more interesting boyfriends. Every place I went, I automatically assessed the men:

Like every other woman in the world, I sometimes ignored my own assessments and made some Very Bad Choices. I also dated some very nice men where our timing, our religion, or our goals just didn’t work out. By the time I met my future husband Andy, I had accrued quite a few gifts from those exes. Plus a bunch from the messed up ones, too.

Once Andy and I were dating, those gifts not-so-mysteriously disappeared (i.e., Andy broke them or threw them away). The only survivors were jewelry I hurriedly gave to my younger sisters.

After we got married and Andy heaved my box marked “Romantic Correspondence” into a dumpster, he declared victory. (What? Doesn’t every writer keep a box like that? It is was potential material!)

Andy hasn’t been jealous or competitive with other men since. Not that he had reason to be. Other men? An affair? When the fuck would I even have the time, let alone the interest?

Baby D and his army of plushies. Wars staged daily.

 I was (and still am) too busy with our pets, raising our tornado of a child WHO NEVER NAPPED, running our household, volunteering at school/ soccer, and trying to squeeze in writing to even think about men. Except in a smash the patriarchy kind of way.

I figured other moms felt the same. Until the fire department arrived.

Every year, a nearby fire department goes around our neighborhood, stopping at each hydrant to test new recruits on connecting hoses to the hydrant. Every year, the fire truck collects a mesmerized audience of toddlers, preschoolers, and their caretakers. The first year, I followed fire department aficionado Baby D in his little cozy coupe car, grateful I didn’t need to entertain him with stuffed animal wars or Nerf weapons for a whole 15 minutes. (All I had to do was listen as Baby D lectured me on the differences between the pumper truck, the aerial ladder truck, and the urban search and rescue truck.)

When the fire pumper truck finally drove away, one of the moms said, “Some of those firefighters were pretty cute, huh?”

I looked at her blankly and said, “What?” because I literally could not comprehend what she said.

She winked, laughed, and said, “Yeah, right” before spotting her kid scootering into the street. “Wyatt! Back on the sidewalk!”

I don’t know if those firefighters were all male, let alone “cute.” What men looked like no longer registered. One of them could’ve started dancing and stripping down and I’d’ve been like, “Hey, can my kid have your hard hat so he can pretend to be a firefighter and maybe entertain himself for 5 seconds?”

I don’t know where my neighbor mom got the energy to assess firefighter attractiveness.

Maybe little Wyatt took naps.

The Lemon (#348)

I wouldn’t trade my husband for anything.

I reminded myself of this last weekend when he injured his dominant hand working on the sprinklers. (That’s sprinkler injury #2, for those counting.)

But if Andy had been a car? TOTAL. LEMON. (For younger readers, “lemon” is slang for a car that is constantly breaking, usually due to shitty manufacturing.)

The Spousemobile has had five surgeries on his knees and ankles (two ruptured tendons, two torn menisci, one giant cyst removed). He’s got compressed discs in his back. He’s broken his tailbone (not his fault, the poor Spousemobile got rear-ended by a texting idiot). Andy also has infection-induced asthma; normal winter colds regularly led to bronchitis until he got his CPAP machine (because he also has sleep apnea). He’s got retinas that would like to detach and has had holes in them soldered up by lasers regularly.

Luckily—or perhaps smartly—Andy picked a sturdy wife that can soldier on through pretty much all ailments. Torn quadricep? Watch me scoot around on the floor to clean! 6 months of nausea while pregnant? Let me just take some puke bags with the poop bags when I walk the dogs. Flattened by a dog while walking my dogs? I’ll leave a trail of blood, but I’ll get us all home. Familial vasovagal response that makes me pass out when I donate blood or see someone injured? Don’t worry, I’ve gotten very good at either not passing out or figuring out how to do it with minimal fuss/ bother. (The secret is to make a lot of jokes and talk to nurses to keep your blood pressure up. If that doesn’t work? Lie down ASAP. No matter how dirty, the floor is your friend.)

A man with tools and a bathroom sink
Andy being handy

Despite his issues, there’s no way I’m trading in the Spousemobile. Like most men, Andy tends to automatically put his own needs ahead of his pets and spawn, but when I lose my shit calmly explain that ideally one prioritizes one’s child over reading a newspaper, Andy makes adjustments. He works at a job he doesn’t love in order to keep us fed and medically insured. He cooks 30-50% of the time (he cooked more before child and injuries). He’s handy around the house (despite the demon sprinklers).

He wrestles with Baby D and even grudgingly coached youth sports.

A man and a boy with matching ice packs
Of course, wrestling with Baby D sometimes means ice packs for all.

Meanwhile, no small number of my Gen X mom friends have traded in their undented Chevy Novas (all white models). Some have decided there’s no point in having an extra car that just sits in the driveway with XM Sports Radio blaring while they are madly driving to work, school, the store, practices, the doctor, and the vet. Younger women, seeing all the trade-ins (and crashes) are opting to avoid the marital car altogether. Those that do get married are opting against having children.

I don’t care what the Boomers say: the Millennials are all right.

And Gen Z? They believe in voting, unions, universal healthcare, addressing climate change, and better public transportation.

May they never know what a vehicular lemon is.

What Bugs (#338)

My Chinese American husband doesn’t see dirt. At least, not in our house. He’s got a whole dirt manufacturing thing going on in our yard with multiple compost piles, but can he spot an errant leaf or Lego on the floor and pick it up? Haha, no. Not even after he’s experienced multiple late-night Lego fire walks into our son’s bedroom.

Back when we were dating, Andy would get mad about his roommate leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter.

Now that we’re married? Andy leaves crumbs on the kitchen counter. Continue reading What Bugs (#338)

Post Father’s Day Post (#323)

Compared to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is pretty recent. It only exists because certain politicians got all whiny about how dads in America were bereft of recognition. Instead of self-soothing with their higher wages, or their ability to assault women with impunity, or their success despite white mediocrity, they demanded their very own holiday.

President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law in 1972. Yes, NIXON, the most corrupt U.S. President until Trump demanded Nixon hold his beer.

Mother’s Day, at best, says “thanks for all the unpaid emotional labor of child-rearing, please have this one day off.” Ironically, it often means more work for a person who is already overworked and underpaid.

Father’s Day? Father’s Day is ridiculous. We live in a damned patriarchy. Every day is Father’s Day. Continue reading Post Father’s Day Post (#323)

Airline Assault (#277)

By now, most of America is probably aware of #Reclinegate. If you aren’t, it goes like this:

A white woman with back issues reclined her seat on a Delta flight–waiting until after the white man behind her had eaten. (He had the last seat on the plane and could not recline.) The man proceeded to pummel the crap out of the back of her seat. She filmed him. For some reason, the media framed this as a “both sides” issue and ran polls on “who is right?”

Plenty of white men say, “Bitch got what she deserved.”

Most women ask, “How is this not assault?!”

I say,  “Let me tell you a story.” Continue reading Airline Assault (#277)

Valentine’s Day: BC vs. AD (#276)

I titled this post “Valentine’s Day” because it’s the season, but really? Valentine’s Day is a euphemism for sex. Romance, too, but mainly sex.

In our house, BC stands for “Before Children.” Back during Valentine’s Day BC, my husband snuck home from work for “nooners.” We had sex whenever we wanted, but there was always guaranteed sex on Valentine’s Day, his birthday, and our anniversary.

AD stands for “After Dalton,” our son.  Valentine’s Day AD? Bahahahaha.

I learned from sisters and mom friends that’s normal. If you’re a halfway decent mom, sex and romance disappear after kids.

It’s not because you didn’t try. Wait, let me rephrase. It’s not because you didn’t want to try.

Okay, maybe it is because you didn’t want to try. Continue reading Valentine’s Day: BC vs. AD (#276)

Fun Dad (#264)

I was primary caregiver to our son. This meant that I was also primary disciplinarian, Sayer of “No,” Destroyer of Fun.

It’s no picnic parenting a headstrong, contrary child. Ideally a parent can redirect a toddler to a non-destructive activity. But sometimes, you just gotta say no. Then you have to back it up with consequences. Otherwise, you’re raising a privileged monster who flouts the rule of law and does whatever the hell he wants. (You know, your basic born affluent white man.) Continue reading Fun Dad (#264)

Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)

My husband had Chinese-American parents. Mine were white, uptight, and Anglo-Saxon Protestant/ Atheist.

Andy was expected to obey his parents without question. If his parents said his curfew was 10 PM, Andy was home at 10 PM. If Andy’s father wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV, Andy could forget about participating in Little League or any other sport.

I was expected to obey, but not without question. My mom was an attorney. Dinner table discussions in her house ranged from abortion to capital punishment. Everyone was encouraged to express their own opinions and defend them. If I could present a good argument for a curfew change or pierced ears, these items might be considered. (Lost on curfew, won on pierced ears.) Continue reading Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)